Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web Summary and Analysis of Section Eleven

Homer and his famous pig are announced over the loudspeaker as crowds gathered to watch. Fern, who spent the best day of her life on the Ferris wheel with Henry Fussy the day before, runs off when she sees him in the crowd - they run off to the Ferris wheel again. Back at the judges' stand comes Charlotte's hour of triumph. Over the loudspeaker she hears 'The fame of this unique animal has spread to the far corners of the earth, attracting many valuable tourists to our great State.' 'Whence came this mysterious writing' it continues 'Not from the spider, we can rest assured of that. Spiders are very clever at weaving their webs, but needless to say spiders cannot write.' With all the attention, Wilbur simply faints. The judges stop and say they can't give a prize to a dead pig. Zuckerman protests that he is shy and doesn't like praise and has simply fainted. Templeton decides to sort the problem out and bites Wilbur hard on his tail. The pain revives him. Zuckerman is given twenty five dollars and a medal - it is the greatest moment of Zuckerman's life.

Resting after the excitement of the afternoon's events with Templeton asleep a little further off, Wilbur notices that Charlotte is quieter than usual. She tells him that she is feeling quiet but peaceful and that his success has secured his safety, for which she is so grateful. She tells Wilbur that Zuckerman will never harm him now and that he will live to enjoy 'this lovely world, these golden days...' Suddenly aware of his bright future, Wilbur thanks Charlotte and tells her he would gladly give his life for her. He is excited about going home to the barn and asks Charlotte if she is anxious to get back.

Charlotte breaks the news to Wilbur that she has little energy left and that in a day or two she will be dead. Shocked and greatly saddened by the news Wilbur races around the pen in a panic. He then suddenly has an idea which he has little time to execute - the Arables and Zuckermans are fast approaching. He will take Charlotte's eggs home but first he needs Templeton to fetch them for him. After much persuasion and the promise that Templeton will have first choice of his slops from now on, Templeton retrieves the egg sack. At this point the Arables and Zuckermans arrive and Wilbur has just enough time to put the sack on his tongue (which he remembers is waterproof) and holds it safely there in secret. As he is shoved into the crate, Wilbur winks at Charlotte and she summons all the energy she has to wave him goodbye one last time. The next day, as the Ferris wheel is being taken apart and the entertainers are packing their things to go home, Charlotte dies.


Although everyone is very excited that Wilbur is being called onto the platform, the narrative completely undermines the hysteria and paints it as farcical. The voice that is heard over the loudspeaker is described as ‘pompous’ and we remember well Charlotte’s opinion that men are gullible. It is clear that the Zuckermans and Arables are simply enjoying the attention of celebrity which they have gained from being associated with Wilbur and the narrative takes pains to point this out.

The description given is the sort of description we might associate with the arrival of royalty in a foreign land, which is obviously quite ridiculous considering this has all come about because Charlotte tricked them all: ‘the truck crept along slowly in low speed. Crowds of people surrounded it, and Mr Arable had to drive very carefully in order not to run over anybody.’ When Mr Zuckerman and Avery are drenched and the crowd laughs, Avery takes the first opportunity to be the centre of attention by clowning. He tries to get laughs by being a clown. It is no coincidence that clowns are usually portrayed as sad characters and this instance is no different – it is sad that Avery stoops to this basic level for attention but it shows the lengths that people will go to for accolade. As the narrative explains: ‘Avery heard nothing but applause.’ He is completely self-absorbed at this point and has no interest in anybody else except himself and the attention he is getting. It is some irony that Mr Arable and Mr Zuckerman conspired to kill Wilbur for Christmas but now that nature has pointed out Wilbur’s worth, they have bought into the miracle completely and congratulate themselves on their success.

For the reader who has been privy to the backstage activities that have created this uproar, we know where the real wonder lies. What these people fail to recognise is the everyday miracle of the world where spiders can build such precise and beautiful webs and where love can make people act in heroic ways. Because she loves Wilbur, Charlotte wants nothing more than the knowledge that he will be safe. What the adults revel in is celebrity and that is nothing but superficial congratulation which comes from vanity and an inability to really appreciate the beauty of life and nature.

Suddenly Wilbur is a hero and the qualities that shamed him as a runt are now glorified: ‘Note the smoothness and whiteness of the coat.’ When he was born, he was described by Avery as a ‘white rat’. They completely by-pass Charlotte, claiming ‘Spiders are very clever at weaving their webs, but needless to say spiders cannot write’. Because they refuse to open up their minds and reassess the world from a different perspective, they are blind to what is literally in front of them. How many times have we seen classical tragedies based on the idea of the blind man - the man who cannot see what is literally in front of him? They are so unoriginal that they repeat exactly the words in the web without adding any personal description to Wilbur: ‘in token of our appreciation of the part played by this pig – this radiant, this terrific, this humble pig.’

We once again see Fern take steps away from her childhood and the time in the barn and toward her future with boys and perhaps her own family. This time when Fern wants to go on the Ferris wheel she asks for money because Henry has run out. So soon the romantic (and somewhat chauvinist) gesture has run dry and this may well signal what life will be like for Fern in the future.

After all the excitement and success of the fair, Charlotte says something that sums up what is important in life to her: that by helping Wilbur she lifted her life up a bit – she made her life worthwhile. It is not medals or accolade that makes Charlotte’s life worthwhile but caring for and loving someone. Charlotte has looked after Wilbur like a mother and in return, Wilbur is taking her children to look after himself.

The dignity with which Charlotte accepts her death is touching especially when she has devoted almost all the time Wilbur has known her to saving his life. It makes the reader feel peaceful about the prospect of death because her courage gives us courage.

It is poignant that Charlotte and Wilbur exchange no words when Wilbur departs and that a wink from Wilbur and a wave from the weak Charlotte can mean so much. The significance of this silence is important: they need no overblown gestures nor loud exclamations to express their love for each other – they know how they feel inside and the privacy of their silence when they leave speaks volumes.